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David Finlay
Associate Prof. in Immunometabolism, Biochemistry
Associate Prof. in Immunometabolism, Pharmacy


Manipulating immune responses has the potential to provide therapy for a wide range of diseases from autoimmunity to cancer. The serine/threonine kinase mTORC1 (mammalian Target of Rapamycin complex 1) is a key regulator of immune cell function: inhibition of mTORC1 in T cells promotes regulatory T cell responses while inhibition of mTORC1 in dendritic cells (DC) promotes a more proinflammatory DC phenotype. Therefore, mTORC1 signalling has diverse roles in immune cell subsets and is potentially a crucial therapeutic target for manipulating immune responses.
mTORC1 is key to the regulation of various aspects of cellular metabolism: energy metabolism, lipid synthesis and autophagy. Our recent research in CD8 T cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells links mTORC1-regulated glycolysis to the control of fundamental effector functions and thus promotes the idea that mTORC1 signaling integrates the control of cellular metabolism and immune cell function.
Our research is further characterising the links between mTORC1 controlled metabolism and T cell, Natural Killer (NK) cell and DC function.

Ongoing projects are investigating:

  • Deciphering the mTORC1 dependent mechanisms controlling dendritic cell metabolism and function
  • Investigating metabolic regulation of NK cell function.
  • Characterising the role of mTORC1/Srebp signaling in directing function NK cells.

Research Personnel
Current research Students:
Roisin Loftus
Vanessa Bittencourt
Nidhi Mehta
Katie O’Brien
Jessica Walls

Postdoctoral Research Scientists:
Dr Nadine Assmann


Marie Curie Fellowship Career Integration Grant (321603), Science Foundation Ireland Project Grant (12/IP/1286), Science Foundation Ireland Career Development Award (13/CDA/2161), Science Without Borders (Brazil) PhD programme. Wellcome Trust/NIH PhD programme, Irish Cancer Society.


I first became captivated by the complexities of cellular signal transduction pathways during my undergraduate biochemistry degree at Trinity College Dublin, which led me to a PhD at the University of Dundee investigating roles for protein kinases such as mTORC1 in the control of metabolic pathways in hepatocytes. I retained a keen interest in protein kinase signalling during my postdoctoral research in Prof. Doreen Cantrell's lab at the University of Dundee. It was during this time in I realised that mTORC1 is a key regulator of CD8 T cell biology largely because it controls cellular metabolic pathways. This research led to one of the first publications in the then emerging field of immunometabolism and motivated me to establish my independent research group to further explore how cellular metabolism is linked to the control of immune cell fate and function. Since 2011, I have secured in excess of €3.4 million research funding and my research has contributed significantly to the current understanding that cellular metabolism is integrally linked to immune cell functions.

My research is at the forefront of the Immunometabolism field and I have published high impact studies that have challenged established dogmas. My research group was the first to characterize cellular metabolic pathways in Natural Killer cells to show that the way they metabolize glucose is different to the metabolic pathways described in biochemistry textbooks (Journal of Immunology 2014, Nature Immunology 2017, Nature Communications 2018). My research has also made key contributions to an emerging idea that nutrients are more than just fuels and function as important signals; we showed that glucose controls signal transduction pathways in Dendritic cells (DC) to inhibit DC functions and to limit the induction of CD8 T cell responses (Nature Communications 2017). My contribution to leading this new field of immunometabolism have been recognised with invitations to write review articles for high impact journals including the Journal of Clinical Investigation (2016), Seminars in Immunology (2017) and Nature Reviews Immunology (2019, which have been well received and highly cited.

In 2017 I secured an ERC Consolidator Award to study nutrients as key determinants of DC-induced CD8 T cell responses. Successful implementation of this ERC research programme will open new horizons for the study of nutrients as determinants of immune responses. Based on my expertise in the area of lymphocyte metabolism, it is my ambition that this ERC research programme will lead me to further ground-breaking studies assessing the role for nutrients in controlling T cell and NK cell responses in diverse inflammatory situations.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

O'Brien A, Loftus RM, Pisarska MM, Tobin LM, Bergin R, Wood NAW, Foley C, Mat A, Tinley FC, Bannan C, Sommerville G, Veerapen N, Besra GS, Sinclair LV, Moynagh PN, Lynch L, Finlay DK, O'Shea D Hogan AE, Obesity Reduces mTORC1 Activity in Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells, Driving Defective Metabolic and Functional Responses, Journal of Immunology, 202, (12), 2019, p3404 - 3411 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Jones N, Vincent EE, Cronin JG, Panetti S, Chambers M, Holm SR, Owens SE, Francis NJ, Finlay DK, Thornton CA, Akt and STAT5 mediate naïve human CD4+ T-cell early metabolic response to TCR stimulation, Nature Communications, 10, (1), 2019, p2042- Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Katie O'Brien and David. K Finlay, Immunometabolism and Natural Killer cell responses, Nature Reviews Immunology, 19, (5), 2019, p282 - 290 Review Article, 2019 DOI

Finlay, D.K., N-myristoylation of AMPK controls T cell inflammatory function, Nature Immunology, 20, (3), 2019, p252-254 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Nidhi Kedia-Mehta and David. K Finlay, Competition for nutrients; an emerging role in controlling immune responses, Nature Communications, 10, (1), 2019, p2123- Review Article, 2019 DOI

Zaiatz-Bittencourt, D.K. Finlay, C.M. Gardiner. , Canonical TGF signalling pathway represses human NK cell metabolism, Journal of Immunology, 200, (12), 2018, p3934 - 3941 Journal Article, 2018

Loftus, R.M. and Assmann, N. and Kedia-Mehta, N. and O'Brien, K.L. and Garcia, A. and Gillespie, C. and Hukelmann, J.L. and Oefner, P.J. and Lamond, A.I. and Gardiner, C.M. and Dettmer, K. and Cantrell, D.A. and Sinclair, L.V. and Finlay, D.K., Amino acid-dependent cMyc expression is essential for NK cell metabolic and functional responses in mice, Nature Communications, 9, (1), 2018 Journal Article, 2018 DOI TARA - Full Text

Michelet, X. and Dyck, L. and Hogan, A. and Loftus, R.M. and Duquette, D. and Wei, K. and Beyaz, S. and Tavakkoli, A. and Foley, C. and Donnelly, R. and O†Farrelly, C. and Raverdeau, M. and Vernon, A. and Pettee, W. and O†Shea, D. and Nikolajczyk, B.S. and Mills, K.H.G. and Brenner, M.B. and Finlay, D. and Lynch, L., Metabolic reprogramming of natural killer cells in obesity limits antitumor responses, Nature Immunology, 19, (12), 2018, p1330-1340 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Michelet X, Dyck L, Hogan A, Loftus LM, Duquette D, Wei K, Beyaz S,Tavakkoli A, Foley C, Donnelly R, O'Farrelly C, Raverdeau M, Vernon A, Pettee W, O'Shea D, Nikolajczyk BS, Mills KH, Brenner MB, Finlay DK and Lynch L, Metabolic reprogramming of natural killer cells in obesity prevents cytotoxicity and promotes tumor progression, Nature Immunology, 19, (12), 2018, p1330 - 1340 Journal Article, 2018 URL DOI

David, J. and O'Toole, E. and O'Reilly, K. and Thuery, G. and Assmann, N. and Finlay, D. and Harkin, A., Inhibitors of the NMDA-Nitric Oxide Signaling Pathway Protect Against Neuronal Atrophy and Synapse Loss Provoked by L-alpha Aminoadipic Acid-treated Astrocytes, Neuroscience, 392, 2018, p38-56 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Nadine Assmann, Katie L. O'Brien, Raymond P. Donnelly, Lydia Dyck, Vanessa Zaiatz-Bittencourt, Róisín M. Loftus, Paul Heinrich, Peter J. Oefner, Lydia Lynch, Clair M. Gardiner, Katja Dettmer & David K. Finlay, Srebp-controlled glucose metabolism is essential for NK cell functional responses, Nature Immunology, 18, (11), 2017, p1197 - 1206 Journal Article, 2017 URL DOI

Simon J. Lawless, Nidhi Kedia-Mehta, Jessica F. Walls, Ryan McGarrigle, Orla Convery, Linda V. Sinclair, Maria N. Navarro, James Murray, David K. Finlay, Glucose represses dendritic cell-induced T cell responses, Nature Communications, (8), 2017, p15620- Journal Article, 2017 TARA - Full Text URL DOI

Shehata HM, Murphy AJ, Lee MKS, Gardiner CM, Crowe SM, Sanjabi S, Finlay DK, Palmer CS, Sugar or Fat?-Metabolic Requirements for Immunity to Viral Infections, Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 2017, p1311- Review Article, 2017 DOI TARA - Full Text

Tobin, Laura M and Mavinkurve, Meenal and Carolan, Eirin and Kinlen, David and O'Brien, Eoin C and Little, Mark A and Finlay, David K and Cody, Declan and Hogan, Andrew E and O'Shea, Donal, NK cells in childhood obesity are activated, metabolically stressed, and functionally deficient, JCI insight, 2, (24), 2017, pe94939 Journal Article, 2017 DOI

Clair M. Gardiner and David K. Finlay, What Fuels Natural Killers? Metabolism and NK Cell Responses, Frontiers in Immunolobgy, 8, 2017 Review Article, 2017 DOI TARA - Full Text

Viel S, Marçais A, Guimaraes FS, Loftus R, Rabilloud J, Grau M, Degouve S, Djebali S, Sanlaville A, Charrier E, Bienvenu J, Marie JC, Caux C, Marvel J, Town L, Huntington ND, Bartholin L, Finlay D, Smyth MJ, Walzer T, TGF-β inhibits the activation and functions of NK cells by repressing the mTOR pathway., Science Signalling, 9, 2016, pra19- Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Keating SE, Zaiatz-Bittencourt V, Loftus RM, Keane C, Brennan K, Finlay DK, Gardiner CM., Metabolic Reprogramming Supports IFN-γ Production by CD56bright NK Cells., Journal of Immunology, 196, (6), 2016, p2552 - 2560 Journal Article, 2016 URL DOI

Loftus RM, Finlay DK, Immunometabolism; cellular metabolism turns immune regulator., Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291, (1), 2016, p1 - 10 Review Article, 2016 URL Other DOI

Walls J, Sinclair L, Finlay D, Nutrient sensing, signal transduction and immune responses., Seminars in Immunology, 28, (5), 2016, p396-407 Review Article, 2016 DOI

Assmann N, Finlay DK., Metabolic regulation of immune responses: therapeutic opportunities., Journal of Clinical Investigation, 126, (6), 2016, p2031 - 2039 Review Article, 2016 URL

David Finlay, Starved human T lymphocytes keep fighting., European Journal of Immunology, 2015 Review Article, 2015 DOI URL

David Finlay, Glucose, glycolysis and lymphocyte responses., Molecular Immunology, 2015 Review Article, 2015 URL DOI

Zarrouk M, Finlay DK, Foretz M, Viollet B, Cantrell DA, Adenosine-mono-phosphate-activated protein kinase-independent effects of metformin in T cells., PloS one, 9, (9), 2014, pe106710 Journal Article, 2014 DOI TARA - Full Text

David Finlay, IRF4 links antigen affinity to CD8(+) T-cell metabolism., Journal of Immunology and Cell Biology , 92, 2014, p6 - 7 Review Article, 2014 URL DOI

Donnelly, R.P., Loftus, R.M., Keating, S.E., (...), Gardiner, C.M., Finlay, D.K., MTORC1-dependent metabolic reprogramming is a prerequisite for NK cell effector function, Journal of Immunology, 193, (9), 2014, p4477-4484 Journal Article, 2014 TARA - Full Text DOI

Rolf J, Zarrouk M, Finlay DK, Foretz M, Viollet B, Cantrell DA., AMPKα1: A glucose sensor that controls CD8 T-cell memory., European Journal of Immunology, 43, (4), 2013, p889-96 Journal Article, 2013 URL TARA - Full Text DOI

David K. Finlay, Ella Rosenzweig, Linda V. Sinclair, Carmen Feijoo-Carnero, Jens L. Hukelmann, Julia Rolf, Andrey A. Panteleyev, Klaus Okkenhaug, Doreen A. Cantrell, PDK1 regulation of mTOR and Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 integrate metabolism and migration of CD8+ T cells, Journal of Experimental Medicine, 209, (13), 2012, p2441 - 2453 Journal Article, 2012 URL

David K Finlay, Regulation of glucose metabolism in T cells: new insight into the role of phosphoinositide 3-kinases, Frontiers in Immunology, 3, 2012, p247- Review Article, 2012 DOI URL TARA - Full Text

Finlay D, Cantrell D, The coordination of T-cell function by serine/threonine kinases., Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 3, (1), 2011, pa002261 Journal Article, 2011 DOI

Finlay DK, Cantrell DA, Metabolism, migration and memory in cytotoxic T cells, Nature Reviews Immunology, 11, (2), 2011, p109 - 117 Review Article, 2011 DOI TARA - Full Text

Macintyre A, Finlay DK, Preston G, Sinclair LV, Waugh CM, Tamas P, Feijoo C, Okkenhaug K, Cantrell DA, Protein kinase B controls transcriptional programs that direct cytotoxic T cell fate but is dispensable for T cell metabolism, Immunity, 34, (2), 2011, p224 - 236 Journal Article, 2011 TARA - Full Text

Finlay DK, Cantrell DA, The co-ordination of T cell function by Serine/threonine kinases, Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Biology, 3, (1), 2011 Review Article, 2011 TARA - Full Text

Finlay DK, Kelly AP, Clarke R, Sinclair LV, Deak M, Alessi DR, Cantrell DA, Temporal differences in the dependency on Phosphoinositide dependent kinase 1 distinguish the development of Vα14 iNKT cells, regulatory T cells and conventional T cells, Journal of Immunology, 185, (10), 2010, p5973 - 5982 Journal Article, 2010 TARA - Full Text

Finlay DK, Cantrell DA, Phosphoinositide 3-kinase and the mammalian target of rapamycin pathways control T cell migration., Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1183, 2010, p149-57 Review Article, 2010 TARA - Full Text DOI

Tamás P, Macintyre A, Finlay D, Clarke R, Feijoo-Carnero C, Ashworth A, Cantrell D, LKB1 is essential for the proliferation of T cell progenitors and mature peripheral T cells, European Journal of Immunology, 40, (1), 2010, p242 - 253 Journal Article, 2010 TARA - Full Text

Finlay DK., Sinclair LV., Fejoo C., Waugh C., Hagenbeek TJ., Spits H., Cantrell DA. , Phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 controls migration and malignant transformation but not cell growth and proliferation in PTEN-null lymphocytes, Journal of Experimental Medcine, 206, (11), 2009, p2441 - 2454 Journal Article, 2009 TARA - Full Text

Waugh C., Sinclair LV., Finlay DK., Bayascas J., Cantrell DA., Phosphoinositide (3,4,5)-triphosphate binding to phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 regulates a protein kinase B/Akt signaling threshold that dictates T-cell migration, not proliferation, Molecular Cellular Biology, 29, (21), 2009, p5952 - 5962 Journal Article, 2009 TARA - Full Text

Sinclair LV., Finlay D., Fejoo C., Cornish GH., Gray A., Ager A., Okkenhaug K., Hagenbeek TJ., Spits H., Cantrell DA, Phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase and nutrient-sensing mTOR pathways control T lymphocyte trafficking, Nature Immunology, 9, (5), 2008, p513 - 521 Journal Article, 2008 TARA - Full Text

Sauer S, Bruno L, Hertweck A, Finlay D, Leleu M, Spivakov M, Knight ZA, Cobb BS, Cantrell D, O'Connor E, Shokat KM, Fisher AG, Merkenschlager M., T cell receptor signaing controls Foxp3 expression via PI3K, Akt and mTOR., PNAS, 105, (22), 2008, p7797 - 7802 Journal Article, 2008 TARA - Full Text

Kelly AP., Finlay DK., Hinton HJ., Clarke RG., Fiorini E, Radtke F., Cantrell DA, Notch-induced T cell development requires phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1, EMBO Journal, 26, (14), 2007, p3441 - 3450 Journal Article, 2007 TARA - Full Text

Finlay D., Ruiz-Alcaraz AJ., Lipina C., Perrier S., Sutherland C, A temporal switch in the insulin-signalling pathway that regulates hepatic IGF-binding protein-1 gene expression, Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, 37, (2), 2006, p227 - 237 Journal Article, 2006 TARA - Full Text

Liu HK, Perrier S, Lipina C, Finlay D, McLauchlan H, Hastie CJ, Hundal HS, Sutherland C, Functional characterisation of the regulation of CAAT enhancer binding protein alpha by GSK-3 phosphorylation of Threonines 222/226, BMC Molecular Biology, 7, (14), 2006 Journal Article, 2006 DOI URL TARA - Full Text

Lipina C., Huang X., Finlay D., McManus EJ., Alessi DR., Sutherland C, Analysis of hepatic gene transcription in mice expressing insulin-insensitive GSK3, Biochemical Journal, 392, (3), 2005, p633 - 639 Journal Article, 2005 DOI URL TARA - Full Text

Finlay D., Patel S., Dickson L.M., Shapiro N., Marquez R., Rhodes C.J., Sutherland C., Glycogen synthase kinase-3 regulates IGFBP-1 gene transcription through the thymine-rich insulin response element, BMC Molecular Biology, 5, (15), 2004 Journal Article, 2004 DOI TARA - Full Text URL

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

David Finlay, Metabolic Regulation of NK cell responses, Immunometabolism: Fundamentals to Prospective New Therapies , Boston, 25th June, 2019, Abcam, Prof Luke O'Neill Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of Natural Killer cell anti-tumour responses, Seminar, Newcastle University, 13th March, 2019, Dr Kevin Marchbank Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of NK cell responses, Fuelling the immune response: UK immunometabolism meeting 2019, Newcastle, 14th March, 2019, British Society for Immunology's Immunometabolism Affinity Group Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of NK cell responses, Seminar, University of Dundee, 8th Feburary, 2019, Prof Doreen Cantrell Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, NK cell metabolism; Implications for anti-tumour responses, Seminar, Imperial College London, 13th May, 2019, Prof Adam Byrne Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of NK cell responses, IACR annual conference, Belfast, 21st Feburary, 2019 Invited Talk, 2019

David Finlay, cMyc and Srebp drive glucose fueled Natural Killer responses, Translational Immunometabolism', Cell Press Sympsium, Basel, Switzerland, 24th June, 2018 Oral Presentation, 2018

David Finlay, What fuels Natural killer cell anti-tumour responses, Centre d'Etude des Pathologies Respiratoires (CEPR) -Institute Seminar, Tours, France, 29th May, 2018, Centre d'Etude des Pathologies Respiratoires (CEPR) Invited Talk, 2018

David Finlay, What fuels Natural Killer Cell anti-tumour responses., Institute Seminar Series, University of Dundee, 28th Feburary, 2018 Invited Talk, 2018

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of Immune responses., Institute Seminar Series, University of Lausanne, 21st November, 2018, Ping-Chih Ho Invited Talk, 2018

David Finlay, Fueling Robust Anti-Tumor NK Cell Responses , Discovery on Target Conference; NK cell based Cancer Immunotherapies, Boston, 26 September, 2018 Invited Talk, 2018

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of NK cell anti-tumour responses, Natural Killer Cell Symposium 2018 - of the German Society for Immunology , Hamburg, Germany, 10th September, 2018, Keynote Speaker Invited Talk, 2018

David Finlay, Glucose in the regulation of DC-induced CD8 T cell responses, Institute Seminar Series, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, 8th November, 2017 Invited Talk, 2017

David Finlay, What fuels Natural Killers? Metabolic regulation of NK cells, Institute Seminar, Heinrich Pette Institute, Hamburg, Germany, April, 2017 Invited Talk, 2017

David Finlay, Srebp-controlled glucose metabolism is essential for NK cell functional response, Microbes, Immunity and Metabolism, Paris, France, 16th November , 2017, Instituit Pasteur Invited Talk, 2017

David Finlay, Srebp-controlled glucose metabolism is essential for NK cell functional response, Annual meeting of the French Society for Immunology, Reims, France., 9th November , 2017 Invited Talk, 2017

David Finlay, Glucose represses Dendritic Cell-induced T cell responses, Institute Seminar, Medical University of Vienna, Institute of Medical GeneticsUniversity of , 6th December, 2016, Thomas Weichhart, PhD Invited Talk, 2016

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of Natural Killer Cells , American Association of Immunology (AAI), New Orleans, 9 May, 2015 Invited Talk, 2015

David Finlay, Metabolic regulation of natural killer cells, Biochemical Society Transactions, 43, (4), 2015, p758 - 762. Review Article, 2015 DOI URL

David Finlay, Glucose and glycolysis are anti-inflammatory in Dendritic cells , 111th International Titisee Conference, Titisee, Germany, April, 2015 Invited Talk, 2015

David Finlay, Nutrients control immune responses , Irish Society of Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, September , 2015 Invited Talk, 2015

Finlay DK, mTORC1 regulates CD8+ T-cell glucose metabolism and function independently of PI3K and PKB., Biochemical Society transactions, 41, (2), 2013, p681-6 Review Article, 2013 DOI

Finlay DK, Cantrell DA, The role of PKB in CD8 T cells - Dogma versus Reality, . Keystone Symposia on PI-3-Kinase Signalling Pathways, Keystone, Colorado, USA, Feb, 2011 Invited Talk, 2011

Research Expertise


Our immune system is important for our health protecting us from infection/cancer, but inappropriate immune responses cause us harm. Diverse diseases could be treated through therapeutic manipulation of our immune systems. My research group wants to understand how to control immune cells and is now revealing the importance of cellular metabolism. Our research shows that the cellular fuels available to immune cells and the ways that these fuels are used have a big impact on their function. We are revealing novel strategies to modulate immune cell function through targeting cellular metabolism and new therapeutic opportunities are being explored. Our data show following activation Natural killer (NK) cells, lymphocytes with important anti-cancer functions, undergo a robust metabolic response leading to elevated levels of glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation. We have identified the key metabolic regulators of this metabolic response to be mTORC1, cMyc and Srebp. Directly disrupting metabolic pathways in NK cells or interfering with the function of these metabolic regulators severely inhibits NK cell anti-cancer functions; IFN-gamma production, granzyme b expression and tumour cell killing. We are exploring how NK cell metabolism might be manipulated to improve NK cell-based anti-cancer immunotherapies. In contrast to lymphocytes, mTORC1 and glucose metabolism actually inhibit the function of Dendritic Cells (DC). We made the novel discovery that starving DC of glucose results in increased proinflammatory outputs and enhanced DC-induced T cell responses. This study highlights the complex relationship between nutrient availability and the induction of immune responses. An important next step will be investigating the distribution of nutrients in vivo, to determine which immune cells are nutrient replete and those that are deprived of nutrients. Ongoing projects include: --Investigating nutrients as key determinants of DC-induced CD8 T cell responses (funded by ERC-CoG) --Characterising metabolic networks in activated NK cells and how they facilitate anti-tumour NK cell functions.(funded by SFI)


  • Title
    • Investigating nutrients as key determinants of DC-induced CD8 T cell responses
  • Summary
    • A new immunoregulatory axis has emerged in recent years demonstrating that cellular metabolism is crucial in controlling immune responses. This regulatory axis is acutely sensitive to nutrients that fuel metabolic pathways and support nutrient sensitive signalling pathways. My recent research demonstrates that nutrients are dynamically controlled and are not equally available to all immune cells. The data shows that activated T cells, clustered around a dendritic cell (DC), can consume the available nutrients, leaving the DC nutrient deprived in vitro. This local regulation of the DC nutrient microenvironment by neighbouring cells has profound effects on DC function and T cell responses. Nutrient deprived DC have altered signalling (decreased mTORC1 activity), increased pro-inflammatory functions (IL12 and costimulatory molecule expression) and induce enhanced T cell responses (proliferation, IFN production). However, proving this, particularly in vivo, is a major challenge as the tools to investigate nutrient dynamics within complex microenvironments have not yet been developed. This research programme will generate innovative new technologies to measure the local distribution of glucose, glutamine and leucine (all of which control mTORC1 signalling) to be visualised and quantified. These technologies will pioneer a new era of in vivo nutrient analysis. Nutrient deprivation of antigen presenting DC will then be investigated (using our new technologies) in response to various stimuli within the inflammatory lymph node and correlated to CD8 T cell responses. We will generate state-of-the-art transgenic mice to specifically knock-down nutrient transporters for glucose, glutamine, or leucine in DC to definitively prove that the availability of these nutrients to antigen presenting DC is a key mechanism for controlling CD8 T cells responses. This would be a paradigm shifting discovery that would open new horizons for the study of nutrient-regulated immune responses.
  • Funding Agency
    • ERC
  • Date From
    • April 2018
  • Date To
    • March 2023
  • Title
    • Investigating Natural Killer (NK) cell metabolism as a determinant of NK cell anti-tumour activity
  • Summary
    • Effective anti-tumour immune responses rely upon key effector immune cells, such as Natural Killer (NK) cells, sustaining their anti-tumour activity within the inhospitable tumour microenvironment. Our initial data suggest that NK cell glucose metabolism is closely linked to key anti-tumour functions. Activated NK cells that cannot maintain elevated glycolysis do not sustain the expression of key anti-tumour molecules, IFNγ and granzyme B. This data provides a new perspective to explain defective NK cell function within the tumour microenvironment. We hypothesise that the tumour microenvironment represses NK cell anti-tumour functions by disrupting NK cell metabolism. This project will fully characterise the relationship between NK cell metabolism and function and investigate the mechanisms involved using state-of-the-art technologies including various transgenic mouse models. Central to this research will be the identification of novel metabolic biomarkers, using mass spectrometry-based proteomics, that accurately report on NK cell metabolism and thus NK cell anti-tumour functions. These analytical tools will allow the effect of the tumour microenvironment on NK metabolism and function to be accurately monitored in vivo, but will also have widespread applications in pathological diagnostics and prognostics that will ultimately lead to enhanced patient management.
  • Funding Agency
    • Science Foundation Ireland
  • Date From
    • 2014
  • Date To
    • 2018
  • Title
    • Characterising the role of mammalian Target Of Rapamcyin Complex 1 (mTORC1)/Srebp1c signaling in directing the differentiation and function of T cell subsets.
  • Summary
    • Modulating immune responses by shifting the balance of effector versus regulatory/memory T cells has significant potential as a therapy for various autoimmune diseases and preventing organ transplant rejection. The mammalian Target Of Rapamycin Complex1 (mTORC1) has diverse effects in T cells and dictates T cell fate. mTORC1 inhibition provides potent immunosuppression but is associated with significant toxicity. Dissecting the mechanisms that account for the multiple mTORC1 effects on T cell differentiation would allow for the design of therapies that provide desirable immunomodulation with less toxicity. Recent data suggests mTORC1 integrates the control of T cell glucose metabolism and differentiation by controlling the HIF1 transcription factor complex. mTORC1 also regulates lipid metabolism through the control of Srebp1c, though this has not been investigated in T cells. Given that lipid metabolism has also been linked to the control of T cell fate, it seems crucial to comprehensively study the role of mTORC1/Srebp1c signalling in T cells. Preliminary data confirms mTORC1 dependent Srebp1c expression and activity in T cells. This project aims to study mTORC1/Srebp1c with respect to lipid metabolism, differentiation and function of T cells. This will be achieved using pharmacological and genetic approaches and using state of the art in vivo technologies.
  • Funding Agency
    • Science Foundation Ireland
  • Date From
    • 2012
  • Date To
    • 2016
  • Title
    • Investigating the impact of cholesterol on anti-tumour NK cell responses.
  • Summary
    • Cancer immunotherapy is being heralded as the most important advances in cancer therapy since the discovery of the first chemotherapeutic agents. A growing number immunotherapeutic strategies demonstrate how the immune system can eradicate tumours once it is given appropriate instruction. It is well established that NK cells have important roles in the anti-tumour effect of immunotherapeutic strategies. It is therefore imperative to understand factors that might affect the ability of cancer patients NK cells to mount a robust anti-tumour response during the course of cancer immunotherapy. Dr Finlay's research has demonstrated the importance of NK cell metabolism in facilitating robust NK cell responses. NK cells that cannot up-regulate rates of glucose metabolism have reduced expression of key effector molecules. Furthermore, recent data argue that elevated levels of cholesterol and oxidised cholesterol derivatives (oxysterols) prevent the up-regulation cellular glucose metabolism in activated NK cells and the acquisition of normal NK cell effector function. Dr Finlay's research suggests that this effect of cholesterol/oxysterols is mediated by the ability of these sterol molecules to inhibit the action of the Srebp transcription factors. This preliminary data has lead us to the hypothesis that cholesterol/oxysterol mediated inhibition of Srebp transcription factors limits NK cell metabolism and represses the NK cell anti-tumour response. This project will robustly test this hypothesis using complementary pharmacological and mouse transgenics approaches and combined with detailed biochemical analyses and murine tumour models. The key findings will be validated in human NK cells isolated from PBMC of healthy donors. Through a collaboration with Dr Hogan at St Vincent's hospital, serum samples from patients with high levels of cholesterol will be collected. The effect of these serum samples on NK cell on metabolism and NK cell effector function will be investigated. Through these robust scientific approaches, we aim to establish the effect of cholesterol/oxysterols on NK cell anti-tumour responses. If validated, this novel mechanism to control NK cell responses has important implications for the treatment of cancer patients. The data would suggest that the management of patients cholesterol levels should precede the initiation of cancer immunotherapy. Altering patient management in this way could potentially lead to significant increases the efficacy of diverse cancer immunotherapeutic approaches.
  • Funding Agency
    • Irish Cancer Society
  • Date From
    • 2015
  • Date To
    • 2019


AMPK; Biochemistry, metabolism; C-MYC; Cell signalling, proliferation & differentiation; GLUCOSE; GLUCOSE METABOLISM; GLUTAMINE; GLUTAMINE METABOLISM; Glycolysis; HIF1-alpha; Immunity; Immunometabolism; LIPID METABOLISM; MITOCHONDRIA; mTOR; OXIDATIVE PHOSPHORYLATION; Regulation of Metabolism; Sterol regulatory element binding protein (Srebp)



Established an Immunometabolism Forum to support immunologists and foster collaboration. Hosts >80 attendees from multiple Schools in TCD, and from RCSI and NUIM. Sponsorship secured from Agilent 2017-present

Editorial Board for "Immunometabolism" Journal 2018-present

Expert reviewer for Funding agencies including the Wellcome Trust, MRC, BBSRC, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and ERC Starter and Advanced grants 2013-present

Expert reviewer for high impact scientific journals including Science, Nature Medicine, Nature Immunology, Cell Metabolism. 2013-present

Awards and Honours

European Research Council Consolidator Award 2017

Science Foundation Ireland - Career Development Award 2014

Marie Sklodowska Curie - Career Integration Fellowship 2012


Irish Society of Immunology 2011 – present

British Society of Immunology 2012 – present

Biochemical Society 2011 – present

TCD Students Biochemical Society 2011 – present